Our Bicycles Were Stolen In Amsterdam

When we got our camper van, we bought two bicycles to use as local transportation in each city while sightseeing.  It's the nature of campsites that they are usually on the outskirts of the city and it just wouldn't be practical to drive the van into town each day, find a place to park, then walk or use the local public transportation to get around.

We had planned to have the van for six months and knew it probably wouldn't be possible to rent bicycles for such an extended period of time.  We tried to find some used bikes to keep the cost down but, considering my height, and Kumiko's lack thereof, we couldn't find any that fit us.  So we ended up getting new bikes instead.

Those who know me will be surprised that I didn't buy top-of-the-line bikes.  The ones we liked were in the mid-range of prices we saw at the bike shop.  Still it was quite a lot of money and would have been too much to justify simply for sightseeing around European cities over the next few months.  However, our intention was to sell them back to the bike shop when we returned to Switzerland to turn in the van, so our actual cost would (hopefully) be somewhat less than the initial expense.

Things went well from Switzerland (where we got the bikes and van) through Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway – until we got to the Netherlands.  Our first and, as it turned out, only stop in the Netherlands was Amsterdam.  We arrived in the early evening, found a camping place and settled in for the night.

The next day, we hopped on the bikes and rode to the city-center.  After a short ferry ride, we found ourselves at Grand Central (train) Station, where there were, quite literally, thousands of bikes parked in every available place between the ferry docks and the station proper.  Thinking there was safety in numbers, I decided we should lock up our bikes with all the others and continue on foot to the pedestrian streets (where bikes aren't allowed).

As I was locking the bikes to a sturdy rail, I noticed that ours were the nicest bikes around – all shiny and new (painted silver, no less), while the others looked like so much junk; dull, drab, and rusty.  Well, this lock will hold them, I thought confidently (naively).

Five hours later, we returned to where the bikes had been left – and, of course, they were gone.  We went into the station to find a police officer.  We found two who spoke English fairly well and they gave us a number to call, explaining that the Metro department was doing construction around the station and that some bicycles had been moved.  I was certain that ours were not in the group that had been moved because a) there was no construction anywhere near our bikes, and b) none of the other bikes in that area had been moved.  But, in case they were in fact stolen, the officers told us where we should go to file a report.  I asked what they thought the chances were of recovering the bikes and they said, "Almost none."

Needless to say, this unpleasant experience soured us on any more sightseeing in Amsterdam so, when it turned out rainy the next day, we decided to pack up the van and depart.  We went to the police station and filed a report before we left town.  Kumiko's travel insurance might cover the loss of the bikes and we knew we would need a police report in order to file a claim.

When Kumiko was finally able to contact her insurance company, though, we simply got more bad news.  It seems some things are universal, and the tricks that insurance companies play to keep from actually paying out money know no national boundaries.  The way it works is... if you leave your bike outside a store, for example, and go in only for a few minutes, during which time it disappears, the loss is covered.  If, however, you leave it for an extended period of time – like to go sightseeing on the pedestrian-only streets of a popular European city – they aren't covered.  So, if I understand it correctly (and I'm pretty sure I do), if you leave your bike someplace long enough for someone to actually steal it, the insurance company won't pay.  So it goes...